Quite suddenly, Audi pulled out of world endurance racing last year. This was sad for a number of reasons. They were essentially the team to beat at Le Mans for more than a decade. A number of clever people, as well as me, wondered where all the engineering talent and go fast goodies were going to end up.
Now we know: say hello to the Audi Sport brand.
The sadly sordid background of how this windfall of street performance goodies appeared in the first place is well known, but not really talked about. Audi is a division of Volkswagen. And a little while back, VW got caught with their hand in the cookie jar-oh who am I kidding? VW got caught blatantly cheating like a Nixon White House aide on the emissions from their diesel engines. VW got hit hard by a huge fine and was also forced to buy back all of the offending diesel cars, and replace them or refund the customer’s money.
VW’s commercial viability was suddenly as shaky as a brick house in San Francisco.
To arrest this nearly out of control fall before it resulted in a smoking crater on the desert floor, the non-indicted/fired/retired members of the VW board stood on the monetary brakes with both feet. New VW microbus? Gone. VW involvement in the World Rally Championship? Over. New up-market push? None for VW, thank you very much, leave that to our other brands. Kicking butt and taking names at Le Mans? Auf Wiedersehen Audi! But out of this gray, Germanic cloud of corporate “Wir haben uns verschraubt!!!” the gearheads of this world will now get some tasty, tasty goodies for their street Audis.
At the 2017 New York International Auto Show, Audi of America rolled out the new Audi Sport brand. Audi Sport represents the best from the fabled four rings in track-tested performance. Audi Sport models aim to offer the perfect balance of driving dynamics, innovation, and quality. Over the next two years, eight new Audi Sport models are scheduled to launch in the United States.
The Audi Sport line will be part of the company’s line up in addition to the Audi R and RS factory hot rod models. The Audi Sport brand now extends to customer racing, Audi Sport collection, performance parts, and corporate motorsports. Yes, corporate motorsports. Audi isn’t running at Le Mans any longer, but they still run factory backed GT teams at places like Sebring and such.
The Audi Sport vehicles hitting the streets are very impressive. In addition to the newest R8 and the RS 7 models, there will be the upcoming 2017 R8 V10 Spyder. The all-new 2018 TT RS is considered part of the Audi Sport line up and, for the first time in America, the 2017 and 2018 RS 3 is launching this summer. In the first six months of 2018 the RS 5 Coupe will also debut.
The RS 5 features an all new 2.9-liter TFSI V6-biturbo engine that cranks out 450 horsepower and 443 lb-ft. of torque, scooting from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Like I said, Audi Sport is also taking over responsibility for the customer racing programs. Audi Sport has developed an all-new R8 LMS GT4 race car for 2017 that was directly derived from the production R8 V10 coupe. Audi Sport says the R8 LMS GT4 is “the ideal race car for amateur campaigners in terms of purchasing price and cost of ownership.” Which is good to hear, because racing has never been exactly cheap. The new R8 LMS GT4 will roll out for its first race at the Nürburgring 24-Hour this spring – talk about diving in the deep end.
Along with all this hardcore racing stuff, Audi also announced the introduction of Audi Exclusive. Audi Exclusive is sort of a boutique kind of thing – well-healed customers can order a near-limitless number of ways to personalize their vehicles. You know, special colors and interiors and stuff like that. Audi Exclusive offerings are available on the A6, A7, A8, R8, and RS 5 model lines, and the Audi Collection is an (ugh!) lifestyle brand enhancement deal that offers premium items from the Audi brand.
All of this, the fast, the good, and the fashionable, will be available at Audi Sport Dealers. More than half of Audi dealers in America are now in the program with Audi Brand Specialists, specific Audi Sport training, and showrooms featuring unique Audi Sport displays.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.